NEW YORK -- Roger Federer hopes to see his rival Rafael Nadal back on tour soon, but he won't deny that the Spaniard's absence from the U.S. Open creates an opportunity. Nadal announced last week that he would not defend his U.S. Open title due to a right wrist injury he sustained during training, meaning the Spaniard's stronghold over Federer -- he owns a 23-10 advantage in their career head-to-head -- won't be getting any worse in New York City.
"For us, the players, I mean, we hope he gets well and he feels better quickly and all these things and he's back on tour soon," Federer told reporters on Saturday. "But at the same time, I think what stands out is the opportunity to try to take advantage of him, the fact that he's not here. It's one less really difficult player to beat maybe."
Federer comes into New York as the No. 2 seed after a great summer hardcourt season.Federer went 9-1 on the North American hard courts, making five straight finals and winning his sixth Western & Southern Open title a week ago. This is a far cry from how he arrived in New York last year, where he struggled with a bad back and lost to Tommy Robredo in the fourth round.
"I think last year I was trying to convince myself I did have an opportunity, because I feel like once you have had success and once you know how to win majors, or U.S. Opens for that matter, yeah, you can always do it again," Federer said. "I believe it's the case, but you just need a lot more luck and the draw opening up. Because I just kind of felt like it was always going to be hard for me to beat the top-5, top-10 players. I felt like I had little margin against guys ranked just outside of the top 10 to No. 30 in the world. And then the rest of the field I felt like I could manage it somehow, but the confidence was going away quickly, too, just because I was just not moving so well. I was scared to have another setback, and so it was just not as clear-cut and simple as it is this year."
"This year I played a lot of good matches. Not just Toronto and Cincinnati, but really from the first week on I have always played really nice tennis. Then you come into this U.S. Open just knowing -- well, you remember how it feels to win tournaments. You remember and you get used to that. You almost forget how to lose to a point and confidence rises. You're back to winning ways again and everything seems so simple. It's nice feeling that way. I'm looking forward to this tournament, because I really feel like I can play a great tournament. I hope I can show that on the court this year."
Federer opens against No. 77 Marinko Matosevic of Australia on Tuesday. The 29-year-old Australian became a viral sensation at the French Open when he celebrated getting his first main draw win at a Slam -- he had been 0-12 -- by rolling around in the Paris clay. The two played earlier this year in at the Brisbane International and Federer won 6-1, 6-1. "Clearly I'm aware that he can play some dangerous tennis, but at the same time, I feel like it's on my racquet," Federer said. "I have to make sure he has to work extremely hard and he knows the finish line is really far away and, I will try to keep it that way throughout the match."